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Club owner feels Hood-winked

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Just last week, Marsa, proprietor of The Club at Firestone, Orlando’s top late-night venue, felt pretty good about the future of late-night dances, which have been under attack in the political push to squeeze out "raves" as assumed magnets for drug use.

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He and Hood had spoken at length about raves. Marsa believed that he and the mayor were on the way to agreeing that something should be done to salvage the late-night scene. But at a meeting July 14, Hood revealed to Marsa that they would no longer be dancing to the same beat.

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"She said she had shifted gears or changed her thoughts," Marsa says. "I was a bit surprised."

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Hood’s change came after she discussed the issue with other officials at the National League of Cities meeting in Oklahoma City. Also, she was swayed by last weekend’s rave in Berlin that was expected to draw 1 million and a $100,000 study by the Urban Land Institute -- Hood’s consultant in her drive to build a downtown performing arts center -- which urged the city to hone its image.

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Waving a picture of the Berlin rave from the front page of the July 13 Sentinel, Hood asked council in a work session, "What do we want downtown to represent?"

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With the mayor casting the tie-breaker, the council voted 4-3 to pursue an ordinance that would close all city bars at 3 a.m. Marsa’s statements that a 4 a.m. closing would kill the late-night scene also helped sway Hood. With no apparent middle ground, the mayor decided to take the hard line, says Police Lt. Joe Robinson, Hood’s assistant and coordinator of the Rave Review Task Force.

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Public hearings still will be held at council meetings on Aug. 11 and Aug. 25. And having learned the hard way about the impermanence of political alliances, Marsa says he will continue to lobby those favoring the early closing time, while holding what could be the last late-night parties at his club.

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"The game’s not over," he says. "It’s business as usual for the duration."


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